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LITERARY    LIFE                        211


Before we pass on to the non-classical literature, or literature
of the imagination, achieved by obscure or unknown writers
who broke through the classical tradition and wrote out of the
gladness of their hearts and for the sheer delight of creation—
in other words, before we pass on to those novels and dramas
which constitute literature par excellence in the Western sense,
it is perhaps proper to examine the content of classical literature,
the qualities of Chinese scholarship, and the life and education
of that mass of educated men who feed on the people, moralize
a lot and create nothing. What do these scholars write and what
is their mental occupation?

China is a land of scholars, where scholars are the ruling
class, and in times of peace, at least, the worship of scholarship
has always been sedulously cultivated. This worship of
scholarship has taken the form of a popular superstition that
no paper bearing writing should be thrown about or used for
indecent purposes, but should be collected and burned at
schools or temples. In times of war the story is slightly different,
for soldiers used to go into a scholar's house and either burn
old rare editions as fuel, or blow their noses with them, or
commit them to a general conflagration. Yet so stupendous was
the literary activity of the nation that the more books the
soldiers burned, the bigger the collections of books became.

In the Sui Dynasty, around the year 600, the imperial
dynasty already counted 370,000 volumes. In the T'ang
Dynasty the imperial collection numbered 208,000 volumes.
In the year 1005, in the Sung Dynasty, the first encyclopaedia,
consisting of 1,000 volumes, was compiled. The next great
imperial collection, the Tunglo Tatien, collected under Emperor
Yunglo (1403-1424), consisted of 22,877 books, in 11,995
volumes, of selected rare ancient works. In the Manchu
Dynasty, the most statesmanlike act of Emperor Ch'ienlung
was to make a thorough overhauling of extant books for the
ostensible purpose of preserving them, but with the equally
important purpose of destroying works that savoured of
dissatisfaction with the alien regime, and he succeeded in